<
>

Friday's number: .714 (with juicy nuggets for LA vs. Charlotte)

3/5/2010

That would be the home winning percentage of the Charlotte Bobcats.

Yes, the 28-31 Bobcats, currently out of the playoff race in the weak sister Eastern Conference, are a fairly dominant team at Time Warner Cable Arena, with 20 wins in 28 tries. While you'd think their problems historically against the Bobcats would make this sort of thing unnecessary, Charlotte's home mark, fourth best in the E.C. and eighth in the NBA, serves as a stark reminder the Lakers need to bring a solid effort into tonight's game (4 pm PT, KCAL).

This isn't an easy game to preview. On monitor, it's a game the Lakers should win. The same could have been said for Thursday's loss in Miami. Nor can much be drawn from the first time these teams got together this season back on February 3rd, a 99-97 squeaker for the Lakers. Kobe Bryant was hobbled with a bad ankle, for one thing, scoring only five points. Meanwhile, Gerald Wallace didn't play for Charlotte, and Tyrus Thomas was still a Chicago Bull.

Tyson Chandler missed the game as well, but could be back in uniform tonight.

One thing is fairly certain: Had the Lakers turned the ball over that evening (seven times) like they did last night in Miami (16), they'd have lost. Had they defended the three point line that night (Charlotte was 6-20) as they did Thursday (Miami hit on nine of 19), they'd have lost.

A few more items to consider before settling in for the game:

  • Don't assume the Bobcats will just work to grind out the clock. In 29 games since Jan. 1, Charlotte has averaged 97.9 points a game. While not exactly Showtime-esque (it still constitutes bottom-third production league-wide), it's hella better than the 91.7 points Charlotte averaged for the season's first 30 games.

  • One reason: Over that stretch, Charlotte has gone from bricktastic to respectable from beyond the arc. Over their first 30 games, the Cats shot 30.7% (150-489). Over the last 29, they're up to 36.5 percent (186-509). Raymond Felton has been particularly good, hitting at a 43.5 percent clip over his last 40 games.

  • From coach Dave Miller: "Part of their defensive scheme is to pressure all entry passes. What I mean by that is, they do not want Derek Fisher to be able to make an easy pass to the win to initiate the offense. So when Charlotte denies your point-to-wing pass, you dribble at the player on the wing and push him down to the strong side corner, and now your triangle is naturally formed. You start that offense without that first pass."

  • At the defensive end, Charlotte is fifth in the league in defensive efficiency, allowing 100.9 points per 100 possessions.

There aren't many things the Lakers won't have to do tonight they shouldn't have done Thursday night, too. They'll have to cover the three point line, they'll have to take care of the ball to avoid easy points for a defensively solid Bobcats squad. Charlotte, as Miller notes above, will force the Lakers to have some discipline in their offensive execution, and to make the extra pass to allow L.A.'s bigs to create good angles for entry passes.

And those bigs will need to produce more than they did in Miami, particularly if the Bobcats are without Chandler and/or Nazr Mohammed. And of course, if they play, Gasol, Bynum and Lamar Odom need to do more.

If they don't, the Lakers could find themselves heading into Orlando Sunday afternoon with two straight losses.